Odierno Politely Declines to Say That U.S. Troops Ought to Be in Iraq Past 2011
Nice try from Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. In asking Gen. Odierno to explain the case for keeping troops in Iraq in accordance with the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement, he slipped in a reference to “why” the Unnited States ought to keep a residual force for training Iraqi security forces until “2011, and even beyond.” “Beyond” is decidedly *not *part of that accord, and Odierno subtly declined to take the bait.
Indeed, Odierno said, there’s a case for staying in Iraq for the next two years and change: Iraq’s frontier position between the Arab Middle East and Iran; Iraq is “moving toward a nascent democracy and wants to move toward an open economy”; all this could “contribute to stability in the Middle East in the long term” and that’s “of strategic importance to us.” But that makes a case for “allowing our forces to stay there through 2011″ militarily, not beyond, and Odierno does not say that the U.S. ought to keep troops there after the dates jointly agreed upon by the U.S. and Iraqi governments. The relationship that Iraq seeks with the U.S. is an “economic relationship, a security relationship, an educational relationship, technical exchanges,” not remaining dependent on the United States for providing security.
Bonus fact: conspicuously, Odierno did not include Iraq’s oil as a factor for remaining in Iraq, or as part of an enduring U.S.-Iraqi relationship. Just saying.